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Robert Boyd On DC Keeping Rights For Watchmen From Moore And Gibbons
posted April 23, 2012
"It's looWking more and more like DC actively kept Watchmen in print to keep it from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons."
This doesn't feel right. This has been one of DC's best-selling books for decades. My experience is that publishers keep books in print because they continue to make money off of them. Rights reversion clauses often stipulate that if the sales over the course of a defined year drop below a certain amount, the rights revert to the writer. For your theory to be true, it would suggest that keeping the book in print had been a money-loser for DC, at least at some point. Because if the book was making money, DC has a non-nefarious incentive to keep it in print.
(This is not to say I think this was a fair deal. For most publishers, the rights they retain are publishing rights. In this case, DC retained all the rights.)
I reject the notion that DC had to nefariously keep Watchmen
in print against profitability in order to be described as keeping the work in print to keep it in print, and for us to grapple with that reality as conscious decisions made on DC's part. That argument always struck me as odd because it paints DC as this naive entity forced by its own nature to keep Watchmen
in print -- in other words, it make them absolutely captive to their short-term interests (it's still selling) and completely oblivious of their long-term interests (we can continue to sell them forever). Does this sound likely? Does this sound even possible after it was pointed out to them?
The program behind Watchmen
ran counter to industry standard at the time, and the consistency with which DC has kept that book in print runs counter to industry standards even now. I think DC has known what it's doing pretty much from the start, and I think it's okay to describe them as active participants in that decision. I'm not surprised that DC would do so, and I understand the logic, and it's worked out famously for them. But I do believe an active decision was involved at several times during that book's history.